By Colby Cosh - Saturday, May 11, 2013 - 0 Comments
The curious case of ‘Calgary Cruz’ and the U.S. Constitution
Was it Marx who said that history repeats itself, the first time as farce, the second time as even zanier farce? In the late stages of the 2008 presidential primaries, rogue Hillary Clinton fans, desperate to avert defeat, started spreading weird rumours about the circumstances of the birth of rival Democrat Barack Obama. It is one of history’s great forgotten jokes that what has come to be known as “birtherism” began within the Democratic party. The official, acknowledged facts of Obama’s early life were awkward enough, but Clintonites doubled down, attempting to cast doubts on his parentage and his birthplace.
Those doubts have trundled along in defiance of all counterattack and scorn, and a significant fraction of the American public can no longer be convinced by anything that contradicts them. It is not clear, however, whether there is any point to birtherism. Under even the loopiest theories, it is pretty clear that Obama proceeded, somewhere on planet Earth, from the body of Stanley Ann Dunham, American citizen. This almost certainly makes him a “natural-born” American eligible for the presidency.
Act Two of the farce is beginning now, for the brightest early hope of the Republican party in 2016 may be junior senator and former Texas solicitor-general Ted Cruz. Cruz’s following is growing fast. The former star litigator has a plan for avoiding Mitt Romney’s mistakes, his intellectual calibre is impressive, and the Hispanic name and background don’t hurt. But however far his cause gets, he comes to the race pre-birthered. Cruz was born in Calgary on Dec. 22, 1970; his father, a Cuban exile, and his mother, an American from Delaware, were oil-patch folk.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
The three-kilometre wide tornado flattened entire neighbourhoods and destroyed buildings and homes
This aerial photo shows the remains of houses in Moore, Okla., following the three-kilometre-wide tornado on Monday, May 20, 2013 that roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (Steve Gooch/AP)
Rachel Hilton holds stray kittens she found in the debris of her parents’ home in Moore, Okla at SW 149th and Stone Meadows Dr. (The Oklahoman, Nate Billings/AP)
A woman carries a child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla. The relationship between the woman and the child was not immediately known. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)
This aerial photo shows damage to Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore Okla., after the tornado hit. (Steve Gooch/AP)
People walk through a neighborhood south of SW 149th between Western and Hudson. (The Oklahoman, Nate Billings/AP)
This aerial photo shows the remains of homes after the tornado, whose winds were upwards of 320 kph, struck. (Steve Gooch/AP)
A law enforcement official stands in the yard of a damaged home in Moore, Okla. (Gene Blevins/Reuters)
An American flag lies on top of an overturned car in Moore, Okla. Twenty-four people have been confirmed dead, reports The New York Times. It is possible that the number of dead could rise, as rescuers comb through the wreckage of destroyed buildings, including two schools and a hospital, which were levelled during the storm. (Gene Blevins/Reuters)
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
After seven months in jail, one member of Pussy Riot is still eager to court controversy
Yekaterina Samutsevich is a member of arguably the most famous musical ensemble ever to come out of Russia, but when not wearing a fluorescent balaclava and shouting, she’s easy to miss in a crowd.
Samutsevich is short and walks quickly, leaning forward with a hunched and self-effacing shrug in her shoulders. She wears a faded sweatshirt over an equally faded T-shirt and has her hair cut in the long-banged style that a teenaged skateboarder might have worn two decades ago. She seems a lot younger than her 30 years.
Her band, Pussy Riot, gained worldwide notoriety—and in Russia, a great deal of infamy—when its members stormed Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to stage a “punk prayer” protest song to show their opposition to Vladimir Putin and the increasingly close ties between the Russian president and the country’s Orthodox Church, which she says is an anti-feminist institution.
By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 8:00 PM - 0 Comments
The muted response to Israel’s strike on Syria is just one more sign of a troubling new Middle East reality
The mission went off with surprising ease. In separate sorties over the weekend, Israeli warplanes slipped unopposed into Syrian airspace, wiping out missile sites and destroying a major military research centre near Damascus. In past years, it might have been enough to trigger a full-blown crisis—Syria answering with a tit-for-tat strike; Israel pressing the U.S. and other allies for support; the entire Midle East watching helplessly as the cycle escalated. And there was certainly no lack of fuel for outrage: on Monday, Syria’s Arab-language news agency circulated pictures showing the smoking expanses where the bombs had landed, killing as many as 42 people.
But this time, the fallout was strangely muted. Yes, the crippled regime of Bashar al-Assad mustered a pro forma protest, decrying the attacks as a “declaration of war,” and threatened unspecified acts of retribution. But Israel seemed unworried about the prospect of immediate retaliation. Even as images of the wreckage flashed across TV screens around the globe, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu jetted off to China for a long-planned trade trip, while a close political ally, Tzachi Hanegbi, declared the government had returned to “business as usual.”
By Nancy Macdonald - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 8:00 PM - 0 Comments
With abysmal approval ratings, the French president will auction off some of the world’s finest wine
“We are not the sick man of Europe,” French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici angrily protested in a recent interview. He may be right. While France and its hapless, broke Mediterranean neighbours occasionally appear to be in a kind of sick race for last place, the French have yet to fall behind Greece when it comes to levels of debt and unemployment or wretched fiscal policy.
Despised by both the left and right, François Hollande has seen his approval ratings plunge to historic lows. The French president, signalling his increasing desperation, has ordered wines from the presidential cellar at Élysée Palace be auctioned off next month to raise funds for the state budget. More than a thousand bottles will be sold, including some of the world’s rarest and most expensive champagnes. The three bottles of 1990 Château Pétrus are expected to each fetch more than $3,000; a 1975 Château Lafite Rothschild could bring $1,500. The Élysée wine cellar is a national treasure. Selling its contents is not unlike hawking the family jewels.
By Katie Engelhart - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
What’s at stake in today’s parliamentary elections
On Wednesday, March 20, a 41-year-old man in the Bulgarian village of Sitovo paid a visit to his local gas station. There, Todor Yovchev doused himself with gasoline and lit himself ablaze. He died two days later, at a hospital in Varna—shortly after telling doctors he was unemployed and unable to buy bread for his child and he “could not stand it anymore.” Novinite, a Bulgarian news agency, called the man’s death the latest “in the country’s unprecedented self-immolation wave.” Yovchev is reportedly “the sixth Bulgarian self-immolator in the course of just one month.”
After so many iterations of “Occupy” X and This-or-That “Spring,” tumult in Bulgaria has failed to capture international headlines. But something momentous is happening in Sofia. In February, Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov was forced to resign after weeks of sometimes bloody demonstrations by thousands of Bulgarians in dozens of cities. Borisov was either the latest victim of pan-European austerity, or a sign of early “Spring” in southeastern Europe.
Then, this week, allegations that the former government was involved in illegal wiretapping stirred the pot anew; several shady recordings, featuring top-level politicians and judges, were leaked to the press. Borisov denies the allegations, but observers are already speaking of a “Bulgarian Watergate.” Just weeks before the next national election, the country’s caretaker prime minister warns that “Bulgaria’s democracy is sick.”
By The Associated Press - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 7:41 PM - 0 Comments
Experts say ‘we’re stuck’ with global warming
WASHINGTON – The old saying that “what goes up must come down” doesn’t apply to carbon dioxide pollution in the air, which just hit an unnerving milestone.
The chief greenhouse gas was measured Thursday at 400 parts per million in Hawaii, a monitoring site that sets the world’s benchmark. It’s a symbolic mark that scientists and environmentalists have been anticipating for years.
While this week’s number has garnered all sorts of attention, it is just a daily reading in the month when the chief greenhouse gas peaks in the Northern Hemisphere. It will be lower the rest of the year. This year will probably average around 396 ppm. But not for long — the trend is going up and at faster and faster rates.
By The Associated Press - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 5:22 AM - 0 Comments
Death toll passes 1,000 amid euphoria of finding woman alive
SAVAR, Bangladesh – Even amid the euphoria over finding a woman alive in the rubble of a garment factory that collapsed more than two weeks ago, rescuers on Saturday returned to the grim task of dismantling the wreckage and retrieving decomposing bodies, knowing there was little chance of finding any more survivors.
The death toll from Bangladesh’s worst industrial disaster is more than 1,000 and climbing. More than 2,500 people were rescued in the immediate aftermath of the April 24 disaster, but until Friday, crews had gone nearly two weeks without discovering anyone alive.
Then, in the midst of what had become a grim search for decaying bodies following the world’s worst garment industry disaster, rescuers found a woman alive, providing a much-needed boost for the weary workers.
By Patricia Treble - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 2:38 PM - 0 Comments
Six cities in seven days—Prince Harry’s whistle stop tour of the United States may not leave much time for princely touristing, or partying (insert naked Las Vegas joke here). For one thing, this trip is dripping in serious events, such as a visit to Arlington Cemetery and meeting wounded soldiers (an itinerary is at the bottom of this post). So it’s Harry at his most solemn and most charming, not revealing the most skin.
“He is a soldiers’ soldier and will bring a spotlight on what’s being done to help these outstanding men and women,” said Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, Harry’s private secretary during the pre-tour media briefing. There will certainly be no shenanigans on Lowther-Pinkerton’s watch—the ex-SAS officer is known for being very close to Harry, as well as William and Kate, and for running a very efficient, very photogenic royal tour (see Harry’s 2012 Jamaica trip—JLP is the man in the check shirt sitting beside Harry—and William & Kate’s Canadian adventure from 2011). Even New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got in on the act, saying, “Believe me, nobody’s going to get naked if I’m spending the entire day with Prince Harry” inspecting areas hit by hurricane Sandy.
By Leah McLaren - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Critics slam the 133rd official portrait of Elizabeth II, but Her Majesty is not an easy subject to capture
Last week, the 133rd official portrait of the Queen was unveiled in a ceremony at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Painted by the Welsh artist Dan Llywelyn Hall, the impressionistic, larger-than-life image depicts the monarch looking bosomy in a stiff red dress, fingering her wedding ring, with a facial expression that could either be described as “quietly serene” or “utterly blank”—depending on your point of view.
And speaking of viewpoints, the British critical press did not waste time voicing theirs; a towering wave of acid disapproval washed over the commission within hours of its presentation. Almost instantly, the press had cruelly dubbed it the “Spitting Image puppet” portrait, for its cartoonish, exaggerated look. The Telegraph’s Harry Wallop was particularly sharp, declaring the painting “makes Her Majesty looks as if she is Mammy Two Shoes from Tom & Jerry. Her fingers are as fat and spongy as Wall’s sausages and her expression is as vibrant as a stale pork pie.” Hall, for his part, sniffed that he “wouldn’t change a thing.”
As official unveilings go, it was no surprise. Since the Queen’s ascension to the throne 61 years ago, the portraits that have met with critical approval have been few and far between. Whether it was Lucian Freud’s famous 2001 close-up, produced over 18 two-hour sittings and hammered by the press (the Times famously described the face as having “six-o’clock shadow and the neck that would not disgrace a rugby prop forward”), Justin Mortimer’s 1998 controversial Warholian apparition, or John Napper’s 1953 “long neck” portrait, which received such a critical drubbing, it was locked away in the bowels of Liverpool town hall for nearly half a century afterward, the Queen—for all her openness and availability to painters—has proved a very difficult subject.
By Patricia Treble - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 2:21 PM - 0 Comments
Call the royal household what you will–prim and a tad proper are common descriptors–but don’t call it inefficient or methodical.
Merely a day after Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen would not attend the upcoming Commonwealth leaders summit in November and Prince Charles would go in her place, the monarch and heir were together at the State Opening of Parliament in London. When the joint appearance was announced a few weeks ago, it caused only a murmur among royal watchers, since the Prince of Wales hasn’t attended the annual event since 1996. Now it’s clear that yesterday’s announcement and today’s appearance at Parliament were part of a greater scheme. As the Daily Mail stated, “Charles’ presence at Parliament today suggests it is also part of the carefully-choreographed plan to share the burden of responsibility.”
But don’t think that this shift means there will be co-monarchs or it’s a sign that “after more than 60 years, the Elizabethan era is drawing to a close, and the Charlesian age is dawning” as Time intoned. That’s jumping the gun. The Queen is firmly in control. Instead, it’s a recognition that Elizabeth, 87, and her husband, Philip, 92 in June, can’t continue their crushing schedule of 300-400 engagements a year without help. As the Independent said, “But–taken together–the moves highlight the increasingly high-profile role that Prince Charles is expected to take supporting his mother in state affairs in the coming months and years. It will involve increasing co-ordination between the diaries of senior royals–with the duke and duchess of Cambridge taking on many more official duties.” The Windsors rarely do anything quickly or in haste. Instead, incremental–even glacial–change is their preferred modus operandi. Charles has been taking on more and more of the Queen’s duties for years, including holding investitures (as does Princess Anne).
Even Camilla got into the supporting act, wearing a fabulous Boucheron tiara and a rather regal looking white gown (royal women only wear white to this event). Though Charles has officially stated that she’ll have the title of “Princess Consort” when he accedes the throne, in part to dampen anger left over from the Diana years, there seems to be a slow shift in perception that Camilla will actually take the title of queen. As the Daily Mail caption stated, “Camilla dressed the part of a queen-in-waiting in a sparkling tiara that has been in the royal family for over 90 years.”
Still, given the Queen’s good health–even with the occasional gastro bug–it could still be more than a decade before we see a King Charles III on the throne.
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 8:07 PM - 0 Comments
With monikers like HD 178911 Bb, the names handed out for the more than…
With monikers like HD 178911 Bb, the names handed out for the more than 800 “exoplanets” that have been discovered by astronomers beyond our solar system don’t exactly conjure up images of exotic alien worlds. And the International Astronomical Union seems intent on keeping it that way. The IAU, which represents more than 10,000 professional astronomers in 90 countries, raised eyebrows recently when it lashed out at groups offering the public the chance to help rename an exoplanet or two, saying in a terse statement that “such schemes have no bearing on the official naming process.”
The verbal beat down appeared directed at crowd-sourcing company Uwingu, founded by American planetary scientist Alan Stern. Uwingu was advertising the chance to rename the recently discovered Alpha Centauri Bb, which orbits one of the two stars in the nearby Alpha Centauri system. It charged $4.99 to nominate a new name and $0.99 to vote on a winner (the leading contenders so far are Rakhat and Caleo).
Uwingu, for its part, argued that people can call exoplanets whatever they want—like they do with Polaris (Alpha Ursae Minoris), also commonly known as the North Star or Pole Star. A further twist: there is no official list of exoplanet names, or even stars. Rather, according to Popular Science, there are several celestial catalogs, each with their own naming practices recognized by the IAU. The bottom line? Earthlings seem destined for unnecessary confusion in the event of an alien invasion.
By David Agren - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 8:07 PM - 0 Comments
Mexico City introduces controversial parking meters
Parking is at a premium in Mexico City, leaving an army of informal attendants known as viene-vienes to assign spots on the street. The rag-waving viene-vienes draw their name from their call to customers, “Come here! Come here!” They also evoke disdain for their work of watching cars for tips—effectively collecting payments for allowing people to park in public places.
Mexico City has moved against the viene-vienes by putting parking meters in popular neighbourhoods. It’s an attempt at establishing order in a city where car ownership has exploded: people often park on the sidewalks and spots are so scarce that stores like Starbucks offer valet parking. It’s also an attempt to claim the proceeds of “an incredibly lucrative activity,” says David Lozano, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Lozano estimates the city’s 4,500 viene-vienes, who mark their spaces in the street with water bottles and concrete blocks, collect a total of $50,000 daily and says they are often organized by “mafias” that share the take with corrupt politicians.
The new parking meters, charging 65 cents per hour, have been controversial but effective. Installing parking meters last year in the posh Polanco district resulted in a 40 per cent increase in the number of available spots, according to one study. But some residents in the chic Condesa neighbourhood voted “no” in a consultation, arguing that poor planning and the out-of-control opening of bars and restaurants—which lack parking lots—brought in too many cars.
By Adnan R. Khan - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 5:47 PM - 0 Comments
Various factions are fighting over the influx of aid money, and trust is in short supply
When Canadian Foreign Affairs Minster John Baird announced on March 31 that Canada would be donating an additional $13 million to help Syrian refugees, he was clear on one point: the money would be funnelled through the Jordanian government. The added funds increased Canada’s contribution to Jordan to $24.5 million dollars, half of all the money Canada has pledged so far to ease Syria’s growing humanitarian crisis.
The choice of Jordan was no accident. With the level of chaos currently playing out in Syria, having a trusted partner to ensure the legitimate distribution of aid has become one of the most pressing concerns of the international community.
Already, the signs are worrying. If there is one thing that is not in short supply in Syria, it is greed. Even as bombs fall in Aleppo and rebels tighten their grip on the capital, Damascus, armed groups, of which there are now hundreds, are eyeing the international aid industry for the money to support their cause.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
She’s visited her northern realm 23 times, including her last visit in 2010. But in a clear sign that Queen Elizabeth II is seriously scaling down overseas visits, she’s bowed out of the Commonwealth leaders conference scheduled for November in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.
“I can confirm that the Queen will be represented by the Prince of Wales,” a palace spokesman told the media today. ”The reason is that we are reviewing the amount of long-haul travel that is taken by the Queen.” They are also dropping strong hints that long-distance foreign visits are a thing of the past, which is bad news to realms such as Australia and New Zealand.
For the Queen, who is deeply committed to the Commonwealth, not to attend the conference is a sign that she’s finally heeding her advisers and easing up on a schedule that would exhaust someone half her age. She’s now 87 and though she undertook 425 engagements last year, all were in Britain. During 2012, the royal household hit upon a clever idea: she and Philip stayed in Britain while the rest of the Windsors were sent to the Commonwealth to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 7:34 AM - 0 Comments
A new strategy for high-dollar donations troubles finance watchdogs
They come with their signs and banners on the 14th of every month to mark the shootings at Newtown, Conn.—a hundred or so protesters in front of the headquarters of the National Rifle Association, a boxy, glass-walled building surrounded by blooming trees in a suburb of Washington.
“I am here to show my senator, who has an A-rating from the NRA, that there is another voice,” says Donna Lipresti, a 60-year-old law-firm administrator from northern Virginia, who hoists a sign calling for background checks for gun buyers. Similar grassroots demonstrations, petition drives and vigils have been unfolding across the United States.
These are not just spontaneous local events. As President Barack Obama has been pushing hard for gun-control legislation, protests like these are part of an ambitious and expensive political experiment by his top campaign strategists. It is an unprecedented, and controversial, tactic that aims to convert Obama’s cutting-edge, get-out-the-vote expertise into a massive machine to grind laws through Congress.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, May 6, 2013 at 7:45 AM - 0 Comments
Some U.S. politicians are using money from Mark Zuckerberg for their own causes–including advocating for Keystone
The latest TV spot for South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is like any other American political ad. “When Lindsey Graham’s in Washington, what does he do?” a voice-over asks. “He stands up for South Carolina VALUES.” The Republican Graham is seen on a talk show tearing a strip off ObamaCare. He complains about wasteful ﬁscal-stimulus spending. And then he returns to the great theme, the ever-pursued white whale of American political advertising: energy independence. “The President says I’m for ‘all of the above’ when it comes to energy?” asks Graham. “Well, those are words comin’ out of his mouth; they don’t come from his heart. No Keystone pipeline, no drilling in the Gulf.”
The interesting part doesn’t come until the fine print reveals who authored and paid for the ad: something called “Americans for a Conservative Direction.” That’s what has Washington buzzing: Americans for a Conservative Direction is a subsidiary of FWD.us, a lobby group funded by Mark Zuckerberg, billionaire founder of Facebook. This unassuming minute-long commercial represents the arrival of a potentially devastating money vector in American politics.
No one would have expected it to land on the side of a moderate southern Republican, but that is the cunning of FWD.us: its initial effort consists of both a Republican front group and a parallel Democratic one, the Council for American Job Growth, which bought a similar spot for Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). Zuckerberg’s idea, laid out explicitly in an April 10 Washington Post op-ed, is for FWD.us to focus on immigration reform, improved science and math education and public support for research.
By macleans.ca - Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 9:37 PM - 0 Comments
‘I’m making great progress,’ double amputee says of recovery
There was an extraordinary moment Saturday night when Boston bombing victim Jeff Bauman served as banner captain for the Boston Bruins.
“Now THIS picture should be plastered all over the media,” said one post on the 27-year-old’s Facebook page. “They put up enough photos of poor Jeff in a time of distress, show him in his glory.”
— NESN Nation (@NESNNation) May 4, 2013
Unreal tribute to Jeff Bauman double amputee after the surreal events of the Boston marathon Guy still has a smile ear to ear Be good people
— Andrew J. Bathgate (@A_Bathgate) May 4, 2013
Bauman’s lower limbs were blown apart when bombs went off near the finish of the Boston Marathon where he had been waiting for his girlfriend to finish.
“I want to thank everyone for their amazing support for me and all those injured and their families,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “I’m making great progress and I thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers.”
He asked for privacy as he recovers. “I want to thank the Bruins players and organization for the generosity and support for all those impacted. Like all those in Black and Gold I can’t wait to see them on another quest for the cup. Go Bruins!”
In a now iconic photograph from marathon day, Bauman is shown holding what is left of his legs, while rescuers speed him to emergency help. The story of Carlos Arrendondo — the hero in the cowboy hat — is now well known:
Arredondo recently visited Bauman — a photo that was posted on his Facebook page:
The Wall Street Journal reports that Arredondo and Bauman exchange texts daily. “I hope we can help other people,” Arredondo said. “I hope that Jeff turns his tragedy into a positive.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Friday, May 3, 2013 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
The murder of taxi driver Mido Macia points to increasing xenophobia in the country
Mido Macia went to South Africa in search of a better life. The 27-year-old Mozambican was working as a taxi driver in a poor suburb of Benoni, a city famous for being the birthplace of Hollywood star Charlize Theron. Macia, a tall man with a strong jaw, supported his wife and five-year-old daughter, both living in Mozambique. He was one of thousands of immigrants from across Africa who travel to the country, hoping to get a foothold in the continent’s largest economy. For some, the move is successful, but for others, tragic.
Arrested by police for refusing to move his taxi, Macia was tied to the back of a police van, dragged hundreds of metres to the police station, and died three hours later. Nine South African police officers are charged with murder; they have been denied bail while they await trial next month.
“South Africa is an angry nation,” Graca Machel, a native of Mozambique and wife of former president Nelson Mandela, said at Macia’s funeral service. “We are on the precipice of something very dangerous with the potential of not being able to stop the fall.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 7:10 AM - 0 Comments
Taking stock of boston’s ordinary pleasures when the entire city is treated as a crime scene
The phone call came soon after 6 on Friday morning. A recorded male voice announced that all public transport in greater Boston was suspended until further notice. Members of the public were urged to be vigilant. Then came a second phone call. The cities of Boston, Allston, Cambridge, Newton, Waltham and Watertown were in lockdown. “Shelter in place,” we were told, an oddly Orwellian phrase. Only answer your door to a member of the police with valid I.D. The one exception, by special request of the city, was Dunkin’ Donuts. Specific shops in the iconic Boston chain were to remain open, offering coffee and sustenance to the police.
In the days following the marathon bombings, Boston had been both the same and different. A huge area of downtown was being treated as a crime scene, and bags were searched on the subway. But such is the force of ordinary life that, even by Thursday, when the names and photographs of the two suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were released, the streets were full of people going to work and school. Coming home from a bustling restaurant late that night, I was startled to see a dozen heavily armed policemen outside the subway, but no one stopped me or searched my bag.
After the bombs, the normal city sounds of Boston were transformed by sirens and helicopters. Now a profound silence fell. People are the lifeblood of cities; when streets and buildings are deserted they become eerie, unnatural places, as was apparent in New York after 9/11. My neighbours’ doors remained resolutely closed. In my city, Cambridge, where the Tsarnaev brothers lived, I saw only a few exceptions to the lockdown: some cars, a solitary cyclist, a desperate dog owner. Late in the day, one of my neighbours sneaked out to tidy his garden. But for the most part we obeyed orders. A million people waited indoors while a 19-year-old American, a college student, struggled to avoid capture.
Meanwhile friends telephoned and emailed from Toronto, London, Tel Aviv, other parts of the U.S. They often knew more about the manhunt than I did. Soon after 6 p.m., lockdown was lifted—not with any sense of jubilation or achievement, but with a weary acknowledgement that people needed to get on with their lives. The massive house-to-house search in Watertown had yielded nothing. My husband and I went for a drink with friends, savouring the ordinary freedoms of walking down the street, enjoying a larger conversation.
But an hour later, as we made our way home, the situation once again changed. An unmarked car screamed by. In its wake came news of more gunfire in Watertown. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding in a boat. Having driven down Franklin Street only a few weeks earlier, I could picture the boat, looming on its trailer, tightly wrapped in white plastic.
The following morning, on the street corner opposite my house, was a large handmade sign: “Love is strength. Stay strong, Boston.” I applaud the sentiment and would add that perhaps even stronger than love is the force of ordinary life that fills the city streets every day. Terrorism brings us up against the chilling fact that, as we work and study, go to the library and the playground, we assume a pact of peaceful co-existence. On Wednesday, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, like many other students, went to the gym. On Friday he kept a million people indoors. “There’s no art,” as Shakespeare says, “to find the mind’s construction in the face.”
Margot Livesey is a novelist whose books include The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, Criminals, The Missing World and Banishing Verona. Born in Scotland, Livesey lived in Toronto and has Canadian citizenship. She currently lives in the Boston area and is a writer-in-residence at Emerson College.
By The Associated Press - Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 7:07 AM - 0 Comments
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Police and politicians across the U.S. are pointing to the…
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Police and politicians across the U.S. are pointing to the example of surveillance video that was used to help identify the Boston Marathon bombing suspects as a reason to get more electronic eyes on their streets.
From Los Angeles to Philadelphia, efforts include trying to gain police access to cameras used to monitor traffic, expanding surveillance networks in some major cities and enabling officers to get regular access to security footage at businesses.
Some in law enforcement, however, acknowledge that their plans may face an age-old obstacle: Americans’ traditional reluctance to give the government more law enforcement powers out of fear that they will live in a society where there is little privacy.
“Look, we don’t want an occupied state. We want to be able to walk the good balance between freedom and security,” Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who heads the department’s counter-terrorism and special operations bureau.
By Charlie Gillis - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 2:30 PM - 0 Comments
How a recent scuffle between Sherpas and European mountaineers turned into fist fight
There are few firsts left to achieve on Mount Everest: more than 4,000 people have scaled the world’s highest peak, smashing everything from speed records to the greatest number of people to summit in a single day (176). But a group of antagonists found their way into the annals this week by engaging in the mountain’s first-ever brawl—that’s right, an old-time fist fight, some 7,000 m above sea level.
The scuffle broke out between a group of Sherpas and three European mountaineers climbing just below Camp 3 on the mountain’s southeast col route in Nepal, according to witnesses and government officials. The Sherpas had been assigned the annual task of fixing ropes, to which the scores of would-be summiteers waiting at base camp could attach themselves on their way up. The climbers—one each from Switzerland, Britain and Italy—reportedly disregarded the Sherpas’ request that they stay put while the ropes were being set. Instead, they tried to forge on upward, prompting the Sherpas to pelt their tents with rocks. Eventually, said witnesses, the two sides came to blows.
Tensions on the 8,850-m mountain are nothing new. Each year, hundreds gather at base camp, intent on satisfying lifelong dreams, and ego is in abundant supply. In recent years, traffic jams in the so-called “death zone” above 8,000 m has led to accusations of self-serving climbers costing lives. But physical altercations are rare, and rarer still are confrontations between visiting climbers and Sherpas, the Nepalese mountain people who provide guiding services to foreigners. Even Elizabeth Hawley, a historian who has been tracking Everest expeditions since the early 1960s, was taken aback, telling Reuters: “I have not heard of any such incident before.”
By Katie Engelhart - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Several European countries–most notably Germany–are welcoming descendants of Third Reich victims
About a year ago, Alex Yale became the citizen “of a country I’ve never been to, where people speak a language that I don’t understand.” To Yale—a 25-year-old management consultant from Connecticut—Austria seemed a faraway land indeed. His Jewish grandparents were born and raised in Vienna, but fled shortly before the Anschluss (Germany’s 1938 annexation of Austria). They eventually made their way to the United States, after stints in Cyprus and what is now Tanzania. Once settled, they tried their best not to look back; their children followed suit.
But Yale is one of a growing number of North American descendants—children and grandchildren of Jewish Holocaust victims—who have recently obtained European citizenship through programs that undo wartime and postwar denaturalizations. Germany receives many of the North American applications (717 in 2012, up from 128 a decade ago), along with its Eastern European neighbours.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 11:12 AM - 0 Comments
Anyone watching the coverage of the abdication of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and the investiture of her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, as the nation’s first king in 123 years was struck by the cozy flavour of the day’s proceedings. Though it was an elaborate affair (the royal website has an exhaustive timetable of events) there was no doubt that, at its heart, this was a transfer within a family firm from a beloved mother to a loving son.
Amid the kisses, hugs and hand squeezes were some teary moments, especially when Beatrix signed away the throne. “Wherever the path leads, your wisdom and your warmth I carry with me,” said her son. “Thank you for the many wonderful years in which we were allowed to have you as our queen. She stood for the values anchored in the constitution. Dear mother, you were queen in full knowledge of the duties you had you were also a wife and mother, and you were fully aware of your duties there too. You were a great support to us all.”
It’s also a joyous moment. The Dutch monarchs have a long standing tradition of abdicating when the time is right. And Beatrix, a widow of 75, is clearly ready to pass on the torch to her son, his wife Máxima and their three daughters. And they did it on Queen’s Day (now King’s Day), a national holiday when the entire nation is drenched in orange, to honour the royal house of Orange.
By Patricia Treble - Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 5:03 PM - 0 Comments
That everything Kate, duchess of Cambridge, wears is an instant retail hit has been such a long-proved commercial reality that it’s got its own moniker, the “Kate effect.”
Now the fairy dust that rubs off on everything Kate touches is doing more than just boost corporate profits. It’s benefitting charities as well.Organizations lucky to have her as a patron report big increases in interest.
By The Associated Press - Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 4:26 PM - 0 Comments
French president, calm and unpopular at time of crisis
PARIS – The sounds of raucous protest echo in the Presidential Palace, unemployment is rising to levels not seen in over a decade, and his country’s economy has been called a potential time bomb at the heart of Europe.
François Hollande, among the most unpopular French leaders in modern history, remains calm.
Lacking the early-career charisma of President Barack Obama or the hard-nosed reputation of Germany’s Angela Merkel, Hollande rose to power in the Socialist Party as a consensus-builder — someone who went out of his way to avoid confrontation. But the amiability that propelled him to the presidency a year ago is turning against Hollande, as poll after poll finds deep disappointment among many who believe he is incapable of the swift, determined choices needed to yank France out of a malaise he himself says threatens generations to come.